A Brief Introduction to Equine Therapy

Closeup of three heads of a horses

Equine therapy, also known as equestrian- or equine-assisted therapy, is a form of treatment that makes use of horses to help promote emotional development.

Equine therapy has proven to be particularly helpful when applied to patients with ADD, anxiety, autism, dementia, emotional and mental developmental delays, Down syndrome, depression, traumatic brain injuries, as well as behavioural issues.

Equine therapy has been recognised as an important area of the medical field in many countries as it has helped to improve the lives of thousands of people around the world.

The Universal Language of Equine Therapy

Not only has equine therapy improved the lives of people living with the conditions listed above, but it is also an effective technique used by many therapists and councillors to educate troubled youth on how to follow instructions and how to react appropriately.

For instance, when starting out with equine therapy, students are tasked with getting the horse to move outside of a circle without even touching the animal.

Many students will try to clap, whistle, or yell but the horse will simply not heed the signal. In this way students, as well as parents and friends who are part of the therapy experience, learn that clapping, forcing, and yelling are not effected ways to get a person to do something.

Why Use Horses for Therapy?

Horses are the most commonly used animal for therapy, but elephants, dolphins, cats, and dogs are also used in many instances, the latter especially for those that are unable to gain access to the outdoors.

However, horses are the most popular as they have the ability to respond immediately to stimuli and given instantaneous feedback to the patient’s action or behaviour.

They may not always be the most feasible option though, and patients are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Just like the way you’d go about getting NRL betting tips may differ to the next persons, each patient has different needs and these must be assessed upfront.

Horses are also able to mirror the emotional state of the patient making them an effective tool of learning. As horses behave similarly to human beings in their social and responsive behaviour, it is at all times easy for patients to form a connection with the therapy horse.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Equestrian Training

When equine therapy is practised correctly by a certified therapist, people with cognitive disabilities, psycho-motor disabilities, and behaviour disabilities show positive results.

Much like physical, occupational, and speech-language therapy, patients with disabilities are assisted by a certified equine therapist to manage their disability, but equine therapy combines all three in a way that doesn’t make patients feel that they are undergoing therapy.

The aim of equine therapy is for patients to:

  • Establish a sense of self-worth
  • Improve communication
  • Establish trust
  • Build self-efficiency
  • Develop socialisation and decrease isolation
  • Learn impulse control
  • Learn emotional management
  • Establish limits and boundaries

Activities Used in Equine Therapy

The activities used in equine therapy are not limited to horseback riding as many patients may feel intimidated or fearful of the horse’s size and may take time to develop a sense of confidence around the horse. As such, included in the equine therapy are lessons on horse care, grooming, saddling, and basic equestrian skills.

The process or techniques applied during an equine therapy session will be dependent on the patient and their type of disorder or the severity, but the primary techniques used by equine therapists are:

  • Cognitive therapy

  • Practising activities
  • Activity scheduling
  • Play therapy
  • Storytelling
  • Talk therapy

It’s important to remember that safety is the primary concern in all equine therapy associated activities and therapist ensure that all patients wear helmets and other protective gear.